JACKSON — There are many facets to Becky Vaughn-Furlow, Trustmark Bank’s executive vice president and director of human resources. Her banking career began at a young age and has lasted for 43 years. She’s worked in all areas of banking and came up through the ranks. She says she received her education through the bank, going to every seminar and workshop that came along. She also has served and continues to serve in countless community capacities.
While accomplishing all of this professionally, she has had a very busy personal life; a life punctuated by tragedy. She has been widowed twice. Her first husband, Glenn Vaughn, was killed in an accident at an early age, leaving Becky to raise three children. Another accident caused her son to be a paraplegic, and a daughter had an accident in which a friend was killed.
“I’ve faced a lot of tragedies and these things can make you better or bitter. There’s only one letter that’s different in those words,” she said. “The good Lord has blessed me in spite of all that’s happened.”
Vaughn-Furlow is also blessed with boundless energy and a large capacity for work. She tells her fellow officers at Trustmark, “I look like a woman, think like a man and work like a dog.” A typical day for her is 10 to 12 hours at the office, then she takes work home and later falls into bed for six hours sleep.
A rigorous routine is nothing new. Her three children were nine, 10 and 15 years of age when their father was killed. “I was mother, dad, everything and I had to give them a lot of responsibility,” she recalls. “I put them on my checking account and gave them a credit card and they never abused it. I taught them to be independent. I had to. We wouldn’t have survived otherwise.”
For 20 years, Vaughn-Furlow’s dedication was to her family and banking. She did not date until one of her daughters introduced her to Benton Furlow, whom she dated for several years before marrying.
The couple was looking forward to enjoying retirement together at their country home near Brookhaven and running their antique shop, the Antique Nook. They bought a house built in 1874 and moved it to their property in the Heucks Retreat community of Lincoln County. After restoration was complete, they opened an antique shop with a large inventory of furniture, collectibles and gifts.
“It’s a beautiful old house, fully restored with all heart pine inside and cypress outside,” she said. “I have all the original shutters and bricks.”
Sadly, the Furlows were married only a year and two months when Benton died of a heart attack. Becky manages to keep the antique shop open with someone else managing it and by going there on weekends.
She says this is what she will do after retirement. Then adds, “I’ll probably do some human resources consulting, too. I can’t just go home and sit down. I’m a workaholic. I always have been.”
Most of her vacations are buying trips for the shop and even if they’re not, she finds it hard to relax and do nothing.
“It’s not that I don’t want to relax. I’m just so wound up, it takes me a while to unwind,” she said. “I live with a Blackberry on my hip. I have to stay connected, and I’m never really off even though I have a wonderful staff.”
When she does get away, she likes to take the whole family to Gulf Shores, Ala., including the three grandchildren. Her children — Angie Jordan, Chad Vaughn and Bethany Lewis — all live in Brookhaven where Vaughn-Furlow also lived until 1995 when she transferred to Trustmark corporate headquarters in Jackson.
The pride she has in her children is evident, and she praises Chad for the remarkable way he lives. “He works and does everything. He’s been an encouragement to a lot of people.”
As chairman of the Mayor’s Awareness Committee, Vaughn-Furlow worked tirelessly for the movement in Brookhaven to make places handicap accessible before there were regulatory laws.
Vaughn-Furlow grew up in Brookhaven as Becky Nettles. When she decided to go to work rather than continue in college, her dad encouraged her to go into banking. He had a great influence on her and she has never had any other job. She began with Brookhaven Bank & Trust Company, a bank later acquired by Trustmark.
Vaughn-Furlow credits Brookhaven banker Ray Davis for allowing her to do things that women didn’t do in those days. He and others mentored her and encouraged her to learn new things.
“The bank gave me my education. I didn’t come to it with an education like people do now,” she says. “Back then, you could start as a teller and work in every department. Bank employees were not trained for any particular job. Unfortunately, that’s not a luxury we have anymore.”
Because she worked in many areas of banking, including retail and marketing, Vaughn-Furlow feels she was prepared for the challenges of human resources. “It touches on every part of banking and I’ve been in customer-serving positions,” she said. “I love HR because it’s working with our associates and they are internal customers.”
Although HR is the most challenging thing she’s done in her banking career, she also finds fulfillment in it that offsets the problems. “The reward is seeing people develop, grow and take on more responsibilities,” she says. “I want to give opportunities to them like people gave me.”
In the work of human resources, Vaughn-Furlow must make tough decisions. “People might be surprised to know that I really do have a heart. I care about people,” she said. “I empathize.”
She especially empathizes with widows and has led support groups in two churches. “I have a special place in my heart for women who are widowed. They often have no one to talk to,” she said. “Leading these groups has given me a lot of fulfillment.”
Along that line, Vaughn-Furlow says she may write a book during retirement. The title would be something like “How to Find the Septic Tank and Other Things Widows Need to Know” based on her experiences raising three children alone in the country.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.